A dangerous fallacy has been encouraged by recent discussion of an Opposition discussion paper on revitalising the north of Australia. The fallacy is that for northern prosperity, just add water.
It is based on a romantic and attractive notion that by reversing a few rivers and building a few dams the factors prohibiting northern development will be washed away.
But that won’t happen unless the crops are suitable for the conditions, and that would involve agricultural bio-technology.
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The Coalition’s pledge to shrink the size of government and the reach of government regulation has hit a furrow in the wheat fields of Australia where deregulation is sometimes seen as a fad.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott this week is determined to steer his troops away from accepting the full deregulation of the wheat market and probably will succeed with most of them.
In fact, it might not hurt Mr Abbott were a couple of his MPs to abstain or otherwise protest against the legislation. It would reinforce the “we’re not Stalanists” line he has been using on the freedom of Coalition backbenchers.
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In a week where the core national issues have had a decidedly seedy tone, let’s usher in the weekend by talking about something sweet. Apples.
Apples are a much under-rated fruit. But one type of apple is in real trouble. It’s the humble red delicious, which used to be known quite simply as “red apples” when I was a kid.
Growers like Iola Robson, who has been in the apple game for 43 years in Batlow, NSW, says her farm used to be about 80 per cent red delicious, 20 per cent other varieties. That ratio is now completely reversed. Another grower we spoke to said red delicious apples could soon be phased out entirely! How do you like them apples?
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Is foreign investment bad? No doubt your view will depend on whether you believe countries have a sovereign right to promote their national interest or whether you are a free market fundamentalist.
As always, the free market fundamentalists get overly excited and try to stifle debate on the issue. The problem with free market fundamentalists is that they are intolerant of other people’s views and think they have a divine right to tell political parties and the rest of us what to do.
Even within the two major political parties you have a division between the free market fundamentalists and those with the common sense to see the broader picture. There’s nothing wrong with differences of opinion even within the same political party.
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I was so happy to read that The Punch’s David Penberthy had decided to try to make a 100 per cent Australian-grown bolognese sauce. So sorry to hear that it wasn’t possible.
Distraught to read that he couldn’t understand all the fuss about foreign imported foods.
Writing as a vegetable farmer’s wife, let me tell you what the fuss is. Every day people like my husband wake up and go to work on the farm. Farm life is a life like no other. There’s no 9 to 5 on the farm.
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History is littered with good intentions gone bad and concerns are growing the Government’s recently released draft Murray Darling Basin Plan is a prime example.
Frontline environmentalists, who live and work with the vagaries of the rivers, are warning that the Government is heading down the wrong track and could be responsible for allowing wetlands, which not even the worst drought in living memory could kill, to be severely damaged as a result of over-watering.
If we have above average rainfall over the next 12 months the world’s largest river red gum forest is facing the very real prospect of being degraded within three years of it being declared a national park, and two years before the Federal Government has signed off on an environmental watering plan.
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Bob Katter gave a press conference today, to announce that he may or may not form a new party. In the end, that was hardly the point.
If the independent member for Kennedy was sketchy on the details of his immediate political future, he was as forthright as a charging bull on his concern for the future of the Australian economy, a concern the nation’s leaders appear to have forgotten.
As usual this week, our leaders are banging on about big picture crap. Gillard is flogging her dead horse of a carbon tax, Abbott’s busy telling us the sky is falling under the weight of asylum seekers, while Bob Brown continues to rail against everything except the destruction of the trees he was originally elected to protect.
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Are we a nation of Akubra-wearing graziers? Of rough and ready carnival operators? Sponge cake bakers called Joan? Or a collection of young mothers pushing strollers festooned with Show bags ?
The truth is we are all these people and more. For the tens of thousands of people who arrive into Australia and settle in Sydney each year, the Sydney Royal Easter Show may be their first experience of the real Australia.
The Show is so big and diverse it is almost impossible to describe. But once you have experienced the Show, you know what it means - it gets under your skin.
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The release of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s guide to the Basin Plan has ignited discussion about how we manage this critical system for the long term. It has been disappointing to see over recent weeks the Coalition now walking away from reform in the basin, reform that even the previous Howard Government saw as necessary.
Coalition members are now arguing that taking action in the basin will be tantamount to choosing the environment over rural communities. This argument is based on a false dichotomy. Reforming the Murray Darling system is not a choice between the interests of producers and the environment- reform is in the interest of all those who rely on this vital river system, to secure its long-term health and viability. Indeed the aim of the Water Act is to manage our water resources in such a way as to optimise environmental, economic and social outcomes.
The worst thing that could happen for everyone in the Basin, whether it’s someone who cares about the environmental assets of the river system or a farmer wanting to continue to make a sustainable living, is for the Government to do nothing. An unmanaged and unhealthy water supply is no use to anyone.
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Lost in the aftershocks of the home insulation scandal is a story with deadly implications for beef farming in Australia.
A Senate inquiry is underway into a decision to lift the ban on importing beef from countries tainted by mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
From next Monday, beef from countries like the US, Canada, Britain and other European nations will enter Australia, without being subject to the usual import risk assessments.
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As a farmer it is my duty to let backyard chook fanciers in on a secret. No chook ever died in credit. That’s why the only chooks that have ever been on our farm have been dead, plucked and ready to cook.
Chooks as pets are the flavour of the month. They are small, they eat leftovers and the eggs they lay are delicious, making them ideal pets for inner-city backyards.
But if you look at the economics, each egg will cost many times more than the amount you pay for a barn-laid dozen and food producers don’t provide homes for poultry or livestock that doesn’t earn its keep.
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Agriculture Minister Tony Burke claimed as an observer to the G8 Agriculture Minister’s meeting in Europe that “Australia has a major role to play in meeting the global food shortage and boosting global food security … we believe investment in agricultural research will be essential”.
Fast forward to the Budget and we find that the Rudd Government cut the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry budget by $908 million or 32 percent. Included in the cuts was the axing of the research body Land and Water Australia, 312 jobs cut and a $35.877 million cut to the Quarantine and Bio-security program.
Cutting the agriculture research budget is unforgivable – but cutting the quarantine budget is criminal. The Rudd Government’s legacy will include disease, deficits and debt.
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